Quote Origin: A Donkey Is a Horse Translated Into Dutch

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg? Stendhal? Marie-Henri Beyle? W. H. Auden? Bayard Taylor? Question for Quote Investigator: A German humorist who lived in the 18th century thought the Dutch language sounded ridiculous as indicated by the following quip: A donkey appears to me like a horse translated into Dutch. Would you please help me to find the …

Everything Which Is Not Compulsory Is Forbidden

T. H. White? Robert Heinlein? W. H. Auden? Murray Gell-Mann? Friedrich Schiller? Weare Holbrook? Ronald Storrs? Harry Lindsay? Gordon Daniel Conant? Gerhart H. Seger? Anonymous? Dear Quote Investigator: The following societal principle has been called totalitarian, authoritarian, fascist, and dictatorial. Here are two versions: Everything which is not forbidden is compulsory. Everything which is not …

Life Is Not a Spectacle Or a Feast; It Is a Predicament

George Santayana? W. H. Auden? Cyril Connolly? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: Fortunate people experience life as an overflowing banquet coupled with a remarkable series of sights and sounds. But most people have more complicated ordeals. Here are two pertinent expressions: Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament. Life is neither …

What Would Remain of Our Tragedies If a Literate Insect Were To Offer Us Hers?

Emil M. Cioran? W. H. Auden? Louis Kronenberger? Richard Howard? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: Humans experience many tragedies, but contemplating the extreme hardships faced by other creatures provides a sobering perspective. The Romanian and French literary figure Emil M. Cioran said something like the following: What would be left of our tragedies if an insect …

How Can I Know What I Think Till I See What I Say?

Graham Wallas? E. M. Forster? André Gide? Anonymous Little Girl? Anonymous Old Lady? Herbert Samuel? W. H. Auden? C. S. Lewis? Arthur Koestler? Christopher Hollis? Dear Quote Investigator: Pre-verbal and non-verbal thoughts are vitally important. Yet, there is an intimate relationship between thinking and using language especially when analysis and reflection are required. A family …

Fashions, After All, Are Only Induced Epidemics

George Bernard Shaw? Gloria Steinem? W.H. Auden? Leo Rosten? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: A style, jingle, gif, graffito, saying, or idea that rapidly mutates and propagates through a culture and achieves popularity is called a “meme” nowadays. The coinage of “meme” was based on “gene”, but a different biological metaphor was employed in the past. …

A Work of Art Is Never Finished, Merely Abandoned

Paul Valéry? W. H. Auden? Anaïs Nin? Maya Deren? Jean Cocteau? Esther Kellner? Gene Fowler? Gore Vidal? Marianne Moore? George Lucas? Oscar Wilde? Dear Quote Investigator: A creative person who is absorbed with the task of generating an artwork hesitates to declare completion. Reworking and improving a piece are always tantalizing possibilities. Here are five …

A False Enchantment Can All Too Easily Last a Lifetime

W. H. Auden? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: The following evocative statement has been attributed to the prominent poet W. H. Auden: A false enchantment can all too easily last a lifetime. I find it so frustrating that people post and repost this quote without pointing to its precise source. Would you please help? Quote Investigator: …

The Existence of Forgetting Has Never Been Proved

Friedrich Nietzsche? Thomas De Quincey? W. H. Auden? Louis Kronenberger? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: A provocative comment about human memory has been attributed to the controversial philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: The existence of forgetting has never been proved: we only know that some things do not come to mind when we want them. This statement suggests …

A Professor Is One Who Talks in Someone Else’s Sleep

W. H. Auden? Apocryphal? Anonymous? Dear Quote Investigator: The acclaimed poet W. H. Auden popularized one of the funniest definitions for an academic: A professor is one who talks in someone else’s sleep. Do you know whether Auden crafted this quip? Quote Investigator: There is substantive evidence that W. H. Auden did employ this joke …

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